Wartime Alfa

One of the beautiful and rare interim-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 2500s, it was bought by a German general during WWII

Virtually identical in displacement to the 8C 2300 Monza, Vittorio Jano's new 6C 2500 was simpler to produce and designed to be inherently reliable and capable of excellent performance. The 6C 2500 employed a single dual-choke carburetor and 7.5:1 compression to produce 95 hp, driving through a single-plate clutch and 4-speed gearbox to the torsion bar independent rear suspension. Front suspension was independent with coil springs.

The most prolific coachbuilder for Alfa during this period was Carrozzeria Touring, which was able to develop its designs in its own wind tunnel. One of these was the Torpedino Brescia, an interim step leading to the traditional full-envelope bodies that would appear in 1941 on the Mille Miglia-Brescia GP BMW 328s.

One of the beautiful and rare interim-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 2500s is the example offered here. Chassis number 915128 was completed in June 1942. Alfa's chassis records show it being delivered in April 1943 to General von Carnap in Berlin.

Its subsequent history is not known until it was purchased in Texas in 1960 by Donald Vesley. Vesley owned it until 1974, when it was acquired by Lew Lazarus, later passing to Dale Finstrom, then back to Lazarus, and then on to John Siebert in Uxbridge, Ontario, in the early 1980s. After completion of a restoration, Siebert sold it to Paul Myers in 1989, who kept it until it was bought in 1997 by Lawrence Smith, from whom the present owner acquired it in 2008.

It has an extensive show history, including appearances at Pebble Beach, a CCCA Senior National First Prize where it was judged 100 points, a Meadow Brook Blue Ribbon, Most Elegant Sports Car at Amelia Island in 2005, a best-in-class win at Greenwich, Connecticut, in 2008, and 2008 acceptance in the long-distance Pebble Beach Motoring Classic.

Its appeal and quality have earned it invitations to The Quail Motorsports Gathering and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2009. According to Anselmi's 6C 2500 book, it is believed to be one of only three cars bodied in this style by Touring. Of the two that survive, this is the only one with its original engine.

This car sold for $345,400, including buyer's premium, at the Worldwide Group's auction at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on November 1, 2008.

As World War II unfolded in Europe in 1940 and '41, automakers in the U.S. were ordered first to limit production, then to eliminate the use of chrome trim prior to the halt of car manufacture altogether in February 1942.

There are, therefore, almost no 1943 or 1944 non-military cars from U.S. makers, and those that were built were olive drab sedans and ambulances. A similar situation existed in the U.K. from 1939 to 1945. However, in Europe, the factories of Mercedes-Benz and their cross-Alpine equivalent Alfa Romeo continued to turn out cars for private buyers through much of the war.

In fact, while Mercedes stopped auto production in 1943, Alfas were made in every year from 1939 through 1945. And as was the case with this 6C 2500 Sport, most of these cars were not dull, nondescript sedans. The still-confident military and industrial elites of both Germany and Italy continued to order fast, beautiful cars for their personal use, even as things began to unravel.

Performance matched more powerful rivals

Available in Turismo, Sport, and Super Sport tune, with power outputs of 87, 95, and 110 hp, respectively, the sophisticated suspension, capable chassis, and flexible Jano engines gave the 6C 2500 road performance that matched more powerful rivals from Bugatti, Mercedes, and Delahaye. The Alfa chassis were clothed in a variety of attractive bodies, none more so than those from Carrozzeria Touring.

Touring had become the coachbuilder most associated with Alfa during the late 1930s and did some of its best work on Alfas, capturing the signature blend of performance and luxury. The 6C 2500 was a sales success for the state-owned company, with more than 2,500 produced from 1939 to 1953, when it was finally phased out in favor of the 4-cylinder 1900.

Alfa production ranged from a high of 330 units in 1939 to 18 in 1944 and three in 1945, hovering around 100 during the other war years.

Of the 6C 2500 Sport 3rd Series, only 172 chassis left the Portello works between 1939 and 1945. So a 1942 Alfa 6C 2500 Sport is certainly rare—one of 53. The Touring body, inspired by the Torpedino Brescia, is lovely and is original to this chassis. It also has its original engine and an obviously expensive, now-20-year-old restoration that has been maintained to a standard still capable of winning recognition as recently as 2008.

So, why didn't this car ring the bell and sell above the top of the price guide range? Was it a great bargain or was something else up? The car, as presented, was certainly eye-catching. However, a closer look revealed many incorrect details, including the wiring, lighting, some control knobs, wipers, and bumpers. Most can be put down to the age of the restoration. In recent years, the knowledge and detail expected in restoring a car of this type have progressed dramatically.

Color could have suppressed bidding

In addition, the bright red color is completely wrong for the car and the period. Most Touring-bodied Alfas of this time were finished in muted tones, and no member of the German General Staff would have ordered a fire engine red Italian convertible in the middle of a war.

The shade does no favors to the shape and certainly could have suppressed bidding. The overall feeling was of a car with great bones, but which needs a comprehensive re-restoration to correct it. It was also clear that the Alfa has not been used lately. It was entered in the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, but did not actually make the run. Finally, while the performance of the 6C 2500 Sport is adequate for the time, today the triple-carb Super Sport is the most desired variant.

But even as it sits, this car is probably the least expensive entry card into every top event on the planet. From concours to vintage rallies, in Europe, the Americas and Asia, the 6C is eligible everywhere. A curious note was the statement that the car has been invited to The Quail and to the Pebble Beach Concours in 2009. It's hard to imagine a car being shown in both places in the same year, and in order to win a prize at either, it will certainly need to have the remedial work performed.

The catalog mentioned the length of ownership among several of the previous keepers of this Alfa, but also highlighted the brief tenure of its last owner.

If the buyer knew what he was getting—a very good car with reasonable provenance, but not restored to the highest level—this could be a reasonable investment. But if the buyer thought he was getting a road-ready, concours ribbon-eligible automobile, he may find the purchase price merely the down payment on a long and expensive pathway.

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